Director of Compliance: Building a Culture of Compliance Through Leadership

The director of compliance is a leader, often working as the head of a team responsible for overseeing the compliance efforts of an organization. It is the responsibility of the director of compliance to ensure that an organization’s board of directors, management and employees comply with external rules imposed on the company by the government and other regulatory agencies, as well as internal systems designed to curtail violations of company policy. In addition to preventing illegal and unethical conduct by employees, directors review advertisements, social media posts and the content of company websites to maintain compliance with laws and regulations. Being a director of compliance requires ongoing investigation into and reporting of violations, as well as collaborating with human resources and other departments to develop adequate training programs and action plans for responding to compliance issues.

The Need for a Culture of Compliance

The best way to ensure compliance remains a top priority for all members of an organization is to embed expectations for employee behavior within the company culture itself. A culture of compliance is comprised of all means of defining, measuring, communicating and reporting compliance issues in order to protect an organization from risk and ensure continued success.

Training on Compliance Issues and Regulations

Compliance issues and regulations—encompassing both external regulations and internal policies—should be thoroughly communicated to employees in order to set expectations and create accountability. It is important that the compliance training is ongoing and constantly evolving, as well as structured in an easily digestible manner. Microlearning techniques, through which staff are trained on small, specific issues over time, aids in better retention of valuable information. A great example of a microlearning technique is an educational podcast that employees can listen to at work. This technique is very effective for when employees must be updated on any new compliance policies or procedures in order to stay current with organizational regulations.

Evaluating Policies Already in Place

As soon as a director of compliance begins working for a new organization, he or she must evaluate existing policies and become familiar with the level at which workplace protocol is in compliance with established regulations. Assessing for compliance allows those in leadership positions to address oversights and identify ways in which policies can be adjusted to identify and plan for potential risks, encourage greater employee participation and increase overall commitment to compliance. When instances of noncompliance are identified, compliance directors must work with stakeholders and managers to reevaluate and redevelop policies that have been found lacking. In the same way that employee training needs to take place on a recurring basis, compliance directors should revisit policies regularly and continue to evaluate the worth and effectiveness of the policies.

Garnering Support from Executives and Business Leaders

A culture of compliance starts at the top of an organization. Stakeholders, executives and business leaders need to lend their full support to these efforts, in part because establishing compliance in corporate culture requires a significant investment in terms of time, money and company resources spent. Having the backing of organizational leaders also sets the tone for an organization and establishes that compliance is more than a concept—it is a core operating value to be embraced throughout the company. Directors of compliance must demonstrate to stakeholders and executives the value of creating a culture of compliance by developing metrics for prolonged operational success, thereby demonstrating the benefits of compliant behavior and highlighting the long-term deleterious effects of the violation of policy.

Establishing Open Communication

Clear and open communication is essential at all levels of an organization in order to achieve the successful implementation of and adherence to compliance policies. It is up to the director of compliance and other senior leaders to establish ethical values, solidify company policies and communicate clearly with employees by relaying policy updates, reminders and feedback. Every member of an organization needs to practice compliance with internal and external standards, upholding federal and organizational policies. Directors of compliance must create a means for collecting and maintaining evidence of compliance, as well as cultivate a corporate culture that rewards employees for communicating openly about violations they have witnessed or concerns they have. This communication can take many forms, including regular check-in meetings, a system of anonymous reporting and feedback, or an open-door policy that allows employees to address concerns with senior directors at any time.

Utilizing Innovative and Effective Technology

Taking advantage of technology can be useful for improving compliance within an organization. Directors of compliance need to push for the adoption of technological tools to support compliance management systems; these can be used to monitor, process, analyze and report compliance data. Advanced technology is a necessary

alternative to outdated spreadsheet-based tracking methods—which confound users who monitor changing compliance regulations and requirements. Technological advancements benefit organizations in a number of ways; they are cost-effective, more reliable and can save hours of data entry, with some technologies monitoring regulatory and legislative bodies to supply compliance officers with up to date information. Directors of compliance can utilize regulation technology (RegTech) solutions companies that monitor changes in regulations and aid in tracking compliance execution. Other tools are available for supervising employee conduct, training employees on new and updated policies, and minimizing an organization’s exposure to risk.

Offering Incentives

Another technique for creating a culture of compliance is to offer incentives for employees who adhere to policy, as well as those who report noncompliant behavior and potential flaws in policy. While incentives can be awarded in the form of bonuses or gift certificates for milestones reached, they can also be as simple as small tokens of appreciation or messages of recognition. Regardless, the emphasis should be less on the reward and more of an acknowledgment that an employee’s efforts in this area are legitimately valued and appreciated. On the opposite side of the coin, it is also necessary to take disciplinary action in instances where an employee has been found noncompliant. If problems are not being reported or the details supporting compliance reports are unavailable, management must investigate further to identify and take action against possible corruption.

Individuals looking to advance their career as a director of compliance need to possess a number of high-level skills, especially in the areas of leadership, organization, and communication. Those looking to develop these skills could benefit from an advanced education, such as a master’s degree in leadership, which offers the ability to hone one’s skills in order to prepare for the challenges of managing and communicating with a diverse workforce.

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Recommended Readings
8 Great Government Leaders of the Past Century
Career Outlook: Human Resource Managers


Eight Ways to Move Toward a Culture of Compliance, The Wall Street Journal

Building a Culture of Compliance, IBS America, Inc

What is compliance?, International Compliance Association

Innovating with RegTech, EY

7 Nightmares Keeping Chief Compliance Officers Awake At Night, Forbes

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